Harvest is coming to an end. Crazy hot temperatures and the drought have pushed harvest up by a few weeks but by most accounts this year’s harvest should produce a wonderful vintage. At our most recent visit to the ranch, most of the vines lay bare. Other than a few remaining rows of petite sirah that still await plundering (see how fat and juicy those clusters look!), the remainder of the vineyard seems a bit somber. Brown leaves suggest the vines are entering a period of rest until budding again next season.
Before harvest our vineyard manager gives daily updates on the brix (sugars) to the winemakers, who in turn carefully monitor the grapes and sometimes visit the vineyard to determine the exact right time to pick. Then the picking crews arrive at sunset and work through the night, when temperatures have cooled the grapes and slow the ripening. By morning large white bins are filled to the top with grape clusters, ready for delivery to the winemakers that same day. (These bins were on their way to a winery in San Francisco).
Grapes are delivered personally in our cool 1972 International Loadstar, dubbed “The Bruiser.” (We even have our own gas station on the ranch…) Once the grapes leave the vineyard the farmer’s work is complete and the winemaker takes over to turn the clusters of grapes into claret ambrosia. Upon arrival at the wineries grapes are sorted, crushed, fermented, and barreled. Then the barrels sit for months as the wine ages and gains structure until it is ready for bottling. It takes a whole lot of labor to produce what will culminate into one of the best sounds ever: the pop of the cork. That pop, followed by the pour, the swirl, the sniff, and the blessed first sip make all the labor on the farm worth it.
The 2015 vintage will be our first vintage from start to finish. We likely won’t be able to taste wine made from those grapes for a few years (2018?) but the anticipation of cracking open that first bottle will bring a whole new meaning to the term “fruit of our labor.”